Continuing the tradition, in his final days in office last January, Barack Obama wrote a letter to Donald Trump, sealed it and left it for his successor on the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office. Trump referred to the letter as “beautiful” on Inauguration Day, which was released by CNN in its entirety this weekend.
Handwritten, at 275 words, it is one of the longer letters former presidents have left the incoming leader. In it, Obama congratulates Trump on “a remarkable run” and offers some advice to his successor, some of which is applicable to anyone – even if 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue isn’t your address of employment.
1. Help those who are less fortunate.
“Not everyone is so lucky,” Obama wrote. “It’s up to us to do everything we can (to) build more ladders of success for every child and family that’s willing to work hard.”
2. Lead through action and example.
In the letter, Obama refers specifically to the necessity of the United States to take a leadership role in global politics, but he notes that failure to act in the way that we want others to act would undermine those efforts.
3. Work to leave the world a better place than you found it.
Obama refers to himself and all former presidents as “temporary occupants of this office.” While few of us will ever be president, striving for improvement is an important principle for anyone’s work.
4. Don’t forget what’s really important.
In Obama’s penultimate paragraph, he advises Trump to “take time, in the rush of events and responsibilities, for friends and family. They’ll get you through the inevitable rough patches.”
Read the full text of the letter below:
Congratulations on a remarkable run. Millions have placed their hopes in you, and all of us, regardless of party, should hope for expanded prosperity and security during your tenure.
This is a unique office, without a clear blueprint for success, so I don’t know that any advice from me will be particularly helpful. Still, let me offer a few reflections from the past 8 years.
First, we’ve both been blessed, in different ways, with great good fortune. Not everyone is so lucky. It’s up to us to do everything we can (to) build more ladders of success for every child and family that’s willing to work hard.
Second, American leadership in this world really is indispensable. It’s up to us, through action and example, to sustain the international order that’s expanded steadily since the end of the Cold War, and upon which our own wealth and safety depend.
Third, we are just temporary occupants of this office. That makes us guardians of those democratic institutions and traditions ― like rule of law, separation of powers, equal protection and civil liberties ― that our forebears fought and bled for. Regardless of the push and pull of daily politics, it’s up to us to leave those instruments of our democracy at least as strong as we found them.
And finally, take time, in the rush of events and responsibilities, for friends and family. They’ll get you through the inevitable rough patches.
Michelle and I wish you and Melania the very best as you embark on this great adventure, and know that we stand ready to help in any ways which we can.
Good luck and Godspeed,